Construction sites can be dangerous places. In fact, construction deaths account for one in five out of all work-related deaths in the United States, according to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). In 2015, the last year for which statistics are available, 93 workers per week lost their lives in work-related accidents and mishaps. More than 20% were in construction.
Figures in New York City itself have risen drastically. In the 2014-2015 year, New York City alone witnessed 10 construction-related deaths, nearly double the average of the previous four years.
What are the biggest dangers on construction sites? Here is a round-up of the top five.
Falls are by far the largest danger on construction sites. OSHA compiles a list of the “fatal four” – the top four causes of death on construction sites. Falls constitute nearly 39% of deaths on construction sites.
Falls can happen nearly anywhere on a construction site, including from scaffolding or the building itself, from one story to the next through gaps or open construction areas, or from ladders or other equipment.
Safety equipment to prevent falls, such as harnesses and helmets, is highly recommended to prevent injuries and deaths from fall. There is evidence, however, that some construction companies skimp on these safety precautions.
2. Struck by object
“Strike-bys” are the second biggest hazard on construction sites, making up nearly 10% of deaths. The objects include moving equipment, such as trucks, or construction equipment or materials, such as beams. “Strike-bys” are the second of the fatal four.
Electrocution is the third biggest hazard, causing more than 8% of construction-related deaths. Some of these are caused by interface with overhead power lines and some by other hazards, such as incomplete electrical wiring.
Electrocution is the third of the fatal four.
4. Caught between
“Caught between” is a term OSHA uses for construction or other employees who have been caught between equipment or objects, and struck, caught, or crushed in collapsing structures, equipment, or materials. This category is responsible for more than 7% of construction-related deaths every year.
“Caught between” is the final fatal four.
5. Lack of fall protection
The sad thing about many accidents and deaths on construction sites is that many are preventable with greater attention to safety precautions, including standard fall protection equipment, such as helmets and harnesses.
Lack of fall protection on sites was the most frequently violated OSHA standard on sites last year.
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More information on construction site hazards:
- Chen, David W. “Safety Lapses and Deaths Amid a Building Boom in New York.” New York Times. November 26, 2015. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/27/nyregion/rise-in-new-york-construction-deaths-strikes-the-poor-and-undocumented.html.
- United States Department of Labor. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). Commonly Used Statistics. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/27/nyregion/rise-in-new-york-construction-deaths-strikes-the-poor-and-undocumented.html.
- United States Department of Labor. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA Quick Card. Top Four Construction Hazards. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/27/nyregion/rise-in-new-york-construction-deaths-strikes-the-poor-and-undocumented.html.